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Minnesota National Guard
DNR visits Black Bear Den at Camp Ripley

Students from Central Lakes College and Perham High School had the opportunity to shadow Brian Dirks, Department of Natural Resources Coordinator at Camp Ripley, March 8, as he conducted research on a black bear, hibernating in its den

A telemetry-based study of black bears residing on Camp Ripley started in 1991

The environmental team recognized a need to study the bears to provide a balance in preserving Camp Ripley's environment for generations to come, while also meeting military mission requirements, said Jay Brezinka, Environmental Supervisor, Camp Ripley

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The study is now part of a statewide research project conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said Dirks It is designed to monitor their body condition; movements and reproductive success of bears in the northern, central and southern parts of Minnesota's bear range 

Camp Ripley lies along the southern edge of the bear range in Minnesota The environmental team's principal objectives are to monitor the production and survival of cubs and collect measurements of body condition, heart function and wound healing They observe habitat use with GPS telemetry and investigate the dispersal of female bears near the southern fringe of the expanding bear range Most importantly; they monitor incidences of nuisance bears and in particular, any conflicts with Soldiers training on base, according to the 2010 Conservation Program Report

The bear den visit began with an informational brief in the Marty J Skoglund Environmental Classroom, and then Dirks led both classes out to see the seven-year-old bear that was asleep in her den

"It's important to be very quiet when approaching the den," said Dirks "These bears are not true hibernators; they can wake at any moment"

Dirks tranquilized the bear first Once the bear was sedated, he took out three cubs and gave them to the students to hold them to keep them warm

Then the mother was taken out of her den, which was a difficult task, since she weighed nearly 250-pounds; double the weight of the previous year

Students gathered around Dirks and observed as he measured the bear and collected data After measurements were taken from the mother and her three cubs; they were all put back into the den

Mark Schneider, a Central Lakes College student, who is enrolled in the Natural Resources Program, said this was his very first time seeing a bear in its natural habitat

"This research gives me an aspect of what a career in natural resources would be like," said Schneider "This has been a once in a lifetime opportunity and I feel very privileged to be able to be working with Brian and studying this bear"

Camp Ripley has been a vital partner with the local community and continues to provide resources to students, such as this shadowing program, said Dirks

"The bear den visits are a great way for students to gain exposure to the career and what an environmental team does," said Dirks "I'm glad they had the opportunity to come out today and learn from this experience"

Officer Candidiate Trista LaFontaine
Camp Ripley Public Affairs
March 8, 2011


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